South Africa is a place that I have always been enticed by. My fathers business is based in South Africa and since I was young he traveled back and forth, sharing his experiences of Safari and the gorgeous landscape of “the cradle of human kind”. He would bring home gifts and crazy ideas but the best thing he brought back to the U.S. was the Peppadew® pepper which was discovered and still grown in the lush region of Tzaneen, Limpopo South Africa . Two years ago I was lucky enough to visit Tzaneen and Johannesburg South Africa to learn about my fathers business, but while there, I was able to indulge in the beauty of the region and also learn about the culture and social issues in the region.
We drove up to the region from Tambo Airport in Johannesburg (about 5 hours). This area is also close to Kruger National Park. As we got closer to Tzaneen and our B&B I rolled down my window; the greenery, flowers and nearby streams added to the freshest natural fragrance I have ever smelled. Along the drive we witnessed monkeys and baboons and other amazing wildlife and agriculture. If anyone loves avocados, this is the place to be! AVO TREES EVERYWHERE!
Something quite contrary to the beautiful scenery and greenery, there was something extremely upsetting I saw during our drive up, and discussed with the locals throughout my trip. We passed Witkruismonument in Ysterberg just outside Polokwane. Here, there are thousands of crosses to honor the lives of those farmers who were murdered during acts of robbery and torture. This has been an issue brought to the U.S. attention as of this year but this issue has been going on for over a decade. If you want to learn more about this issue I have attached a few articles, one dating back to 2012. No matter your take on the situation, it is sad that innocent people are being murdered and that the country had such a brutal history of racism. In speaking to local farmers, they are terrified for their lives and livelihood. Along with murder, people are also destroying their crop and robbing their farming tools. There is so much work we must do globally in order to encourage unite and eliminate all forms of hate.
Going to college in Philadelphia, I have done my fare share of exploring in the city. From roaming awesome street festivals to breaking into buildings, trying to get the best vantage points in the city- I have only scraped the surface of what Philly has to offer. Since summer is approaching, I am going to share with you the warm weather activities and places that I love the most.
Events and Places to Check Off:
Chinese Lantern Festival: This is one of my all time favorite happenings in Philadelphia. This city is so appreciative of every culture, especially that of Asian descent. The China Town in Philly is always celebrating cultural events and the Lantern Festival is such a tribute to the artistic welcoming of spring. Check out performances and special presentation hours on their website. Chinese Lantern Festival
Penn’s Landing/ Spruce Street Harbor Park: Penn’s Landing is a Summer Oasis and a Winter Wonderland. Chill on the water nets and hammocks or enjoy a cocktail on the “boardwalk”. Stroll and play around! Check out the concert lineup at Festival Pier for the summer (I will attach link when announced.)
Shofuso Japanese House and Garden: One of my favorite places to relax. The Japanese garden takes you out of Philly and across the globe. Get a tour or just mosey around and read about the Japanese traditions and how the construction of the house and gardens were inspired. They also have traditional tea ceremonies, I have yet to book a session but it is something I’ve been wanting to do, supposedly its amazing. Heres the link for that Ceremonies and Events at Shofuso. (Can you guess? I’m itching to go to Asia).
Boat House Row: This has always been one of my escape locations. I would go to boathouse row mid day to clear my mind and go for a nice walk down the Schyulkill River. If you choose not to walk, you can rent a bike. From here, you can also walk up to the art museum and observe the city, sitting on the “Rocky steps”. Quick parking tip: If you’re staying in the center city area and don’t want to hassle with finding street or garage parking, park in the boathouse area or lot but check for two hour parking signs.
Magic Gardens: What a beauty, created by Isaiah Zagar in 1991, the Magic Gardens is a must see “South Street Renaissance” piece. Spend an hour or so here just finding the little intricacies in the mosaic walls and observing other local art.
Street Festivals & Events: I always look forward to spring time because it means outdoor festivals and events! Some of my favorite is the South Street Spring Fest & Maifest, Chinatown Food Truck Festival (which I’m not sure they do anymore) and of course Made in America. There are also some great art and food festivals in Manayunk that are spectacular as well! Here are the links to the events and dates: Manayunk Street Festivals & Events and Philadelphia Street Festivals & Events.
Sips & Parks on Tap: Whats better than having a drink in your hand, surrounded by friends with a beautiful view. Sips and Parks on Tap are two different organizations that make this a weekly or daily occurrence in Philly. Parks on Tap is a traveling biergarten that makes stops at Philly’s gorgeous parks so you can chill in the park with your favorite friends beers. Sips is every Wednesday, different restaurants and bars pitch in and have special events. Check out their schedule and the restaurants Sips partners with!
All of this activity might make you a little hungry or thirsty, so here are a few of my favorite restaurants, especially in the spring & summer.
Parc: A Rittenhouse favorite. French cuisine, killer brunch and outdoor seating.
City Tap House: I’ve only been to the Logan Square location, but I would expect greatness at the University City one as well. Some outdoor seating, amazing brussel sprouts and veggie burger. YUM!
Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti:Great Italian food in Old City killer eggplant they also have bottomless mimosa brunch 🙂 They have live music on certain nights so sit on their outdoor deck and take it all in!
SAMPAN orDouble Knot: Modern Asian food, unique dishes with so much flavor the restaurants share a kitchen. Double Knot has great happy hour pricing but less seating, they both have great atmosphere so check them both out! They’re both right next to Graffiti Bar stop over for an outdoor drink in a hidden alleyway next-door!
Talulas Garden: Great atmosphere with outdoor patio, fresh and flavorful food, photo worthy!
Assembly Rooftop: Amazing views of the Logan Square Area, great signature drinks including Frosé.
Find Great hotel deals on Travelzoo! Here are some of my favorites.
A cozy winter getaway is just a few hours away in Mont Tremblant Canada. Talk about winter wonderland, this small-town in Canada makes it feel like Christmas all the time. So, it was fitting to plan the trip around the holidays. This destination is one you can adapt to your likings, you can be adventurous, relax and enjoy great food.
We decided to stay at an apartment/hotel called Cap Tremblant. If you book a room with a view of the mountain its absolutely magnificent. We really enjoyed being in this area because there was a shuttle to the mountain outside our door and it was close to a quaint town that had such cute restaurants and friendly local people to interact with.
So let me begin with skiing/snowboarding. Be sure to book your lift tickets ahead of time, if you book them before the end of December you get a major discount. We were concerned because on the website it says you can book a certain amount of days but we didn’t know if those days had to be consecutive. Turns out you can use your tickets for 10 days within the start date of your choosing. For example we booked 3 days and were able to use them any 3 days we chose throughout our 10 day trip. Obviously the later in the season the better the conditions and more powder but Canada in December is definitely better than the mountains at home! For 3 days skiing was about $245 USD per person. We loved the location because the pedestrian village is at the bottom of the mountain so you can spend the whole day there skiing, eating, shopping and so much more! Everyone in the village is on and off the mountain, so really anywhere you go is super casual, you can stay in your ski clothes and go right to dinner from the mountain, its cool! Since we had a whole kitchen set up in our apartment we opted to just have soup some nights and chill by our fireplace and maybe even swim in our outdoor (heated) pool/hot tub.
If you go to Tremblant you have to dogsled! Visit http://www.expeditionwolf.com/?lang=en to book your excursion. You must first request your dates and they will get back to you to confirm in 24 hours. There are 3 types of excursions, diable, forest and mountain adventure. If you choose to drive the sled, I would suggest doing the easier course, the forest adventure. The guide will pick you up in the village and drive you to their site where they will instruct you in their lodge. Here, juice, coffee, and some snacks are available. Make sure you dress warm and wear your helmet if you have one, otherwise they will provide one. You will then be able to meet the dogs and set them up on the sled. I loved seeing how wound up the dogs get when they know they’re about to run, they are such amazing animals with adorable personalities! Driving the sled alone is definitely challenging. If you want to drive be aware that these doggies are STRONG so proceed with caution and ask for help if you need it. The guides are spectacular, so friendly and willing to help. You will stop once to break and enjoy cookies and hot cocoa, be sure to use the restroom before going on the sled because during the break there’s only an outhouse available. At the end of the ride you will bring the dogs back to their dog houses and then receive a tour. You’ll learn more about what they do to help rescue and maintain a healthy lifestyle for all the dogs they take in. After, they take you back to the lodge where you can enjoy soup and refreshments (if you ride in the early afternoon). There is an option to buy the photos they take of you as well (first and second photo). Your guide will then drive you back to the village where you can enjoy the rest of your day! Be sure to bundle up on this adventure witness my puffiness in the photos.
After skiing and sledding you might want to decompress and have someone work out all of the knots you have from riding. Spa Scandinave is right down the street and has treatments at super reasonable prices you can even get discounts online at Costco or from other Tremblant activities. If you would prefer not to get a treatment, you can still gain access to the Nordic baths, the saunas, relaxation rooms and heated lounges. Spend a day completely relaxing and unwinding, enjoy lunch, the beautiful grounds and just chill. Being in a steaming hot pool or under a warm blanket and a heat lamp while snow is flurrying around definitely makes you feel yummy!
We spent New Years Eve here and they have a huge celebration in the center of the village. They have a DJ and fireworks at midnight at the bottom of the mountain. It was snowing on New Years and it made the night feel extra magical. You should also know it basically flurries all day everyday in Tremblant, I love it!
6 nights in Mont Tremblant
Day 1: Drive to Tremblant get settled, grab dinner
Day 2: Go skiing and roam around the village at night
Day 3: Go dogsledding eat dinner in the town by Cap Tremblant and visit ice rink in town (location)
Day 4: Go skiing go and hang out in pedestrian village
Day 5: Go skiing later go to downtown Tremblant
Day 6: Spa Scandinave, relax!
Day 7: Head home grab some Tim Hortons or Canadian McDonalds on the way back 🙂
If you’re around for New Years don’t miss the celebration in the Pedestrian Village!